The day after I entered the rehab facility, the physical therapist and I discussed my goals. Of course MY goal was to run around the gym three times and perhaps do a cartwheel or two. SHE was hoping I could walk to the bathroom with a walker and NOT need the nurse.
Of course after two days of alternating Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy 3 times each day, I realized HER goal was probably more realistic. So I was thrilled when I received my “gold walking shoes” on day 3. I was able to slide myself OFF the bed, grab the walker, make my way slowly to the bathroom, yadda, yadda, yadda ALL BY MYSELF. The hard part, of course, is finding a way UP off the potty once you’re on it. A good rocking start helps. (Of course I failed to tell her I had “walked” to the bathroom the day before, but let’s just keep that between us- shall we?)
I spent each session in either the large gym designed for most of the physical therapy, or the smaller “occupational” gym. My occupational therapist realized quickly that I probably only needed PT, so she had me practicing most of what I was doing in PT. She allowed me some “fun time” to work on crossword puzzles- part of occupational therapy- and that was a treat.
I watched in wonder at the other patients working so diligently to regain a bit of their independence. It was quite emotional and a reminder that life is indeed short and very, very precious.
I saw the young man work hard to focus his attention on simply reaching up to grasp a handle. His wife and a toddler would join him occasionally, and it made me sad to see them seeing HIM. What tragedy befell him I could only guess.
There were many older clients, some accompanied by a spouse- and others not. Many were friendly and would smile as we would pass each other in the gym. We became familiar faces to each other, and that is always comforting when you’re in a place that is a “sterile” environment that smells of cleaning solution and one last hope.
One day I was waiting in my wheel chair next to an older woman who was working with a PT. I heard her ask, “Do I work here? Is this where I work?” The incredibly patient and kind PT explained where she was. The woman informed her that SHE had been a nurse. And then asked again, “Is this where I work? Am I at work right now?”
I turned my head and reached for my walker. I needed to walk a bit, to ease the pain of watching the future exposing itself to me.
I made several laps around the gym, more and more confident and comfortable with the movement my legs were finally able to make. I caught the eye of an older gentleman who was sitting upright on one of the bed-like tables that sat on the perimeter of the gym. He was thin and a very handsome older fella. He was in his late eighties, I would guess, with a lovely grayed mustache and goatee keeping his face warm. He lifted his head up and said something to me.
I was not close enough to catch it, so I walked closer to him. “What was that?” I asked with a smile.
“Well, it’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful to watch you walking.” He raised his hand slowly as he spoke, and had a lovely twinkle in his eye.
I laughed and thanked him profusely. “Won’t be long until you’re keeping up with me,” I said as I turned to complete my laps. He smiled and waved me on.
I found myself walking back to my wheelchair with tears in my eyes AGAIN. Only this time they weren’t tears from the pain. They were tears of thankfulness.
How did he know that was just what the doctor ordered?